Agenda item

HOMELESSNESS IN BOSTON

A presentation by the Service Manager – Housing and Support Solutions.

 

 

 

 

                      

Minutes:

The Safeguarding Service Manager tabled a presentation offering an update on the position of Boston Borough and East Lindsey Rough Sleeper Service 2022-25.  Members were advised that the current service was funded until 31st March 2025.  The team compiled of the Manager, Team Leader, Senior Officer and 4 Tenancy Support and resettlement Officer along with a Life Skills Officer working across both BBC ad ELDC.

The funding could be used for Tenancy Support and Resettlement; Flexible Prevention Budget; Mental Health Support; Non UK National Support; PRS Access Scheme and Resettlement, Life Skills and Support along with Short term emergency access accommodation alongside Supported Leased Accommodation

Referencing the Rough Sleepers for 2022, the Manager advised that annual counts took place every year with the last on in Lincolnshire being on the 4th November 2022.   People sleeping rough were defined as those sleeping or about to bed down in open air locations and other places including tents and make shift shelters.  The snapshot can take place on a single date chosen by the local authority between 1 October to 30 November.  The snapshot recorded only those people seen, or thought to be sleeping rough on a single night.

For Boston and East Lindsey an evidence-based estimate with a spotlight count had been carried out.  Accurately estimating the number of people sleeping rough was difficult given the hidden nature of rough sleeping.  The figures were independently verified by Homeless Link and Members and organisations from within the borough were welcome to assist on annual counts and outreach sessions.

The latest figures from the 2022 count showed a 26% increase since 2021 with a 74% increase against the figures for 2010.

 

Advising on the Outreach Session, members were advised they were usually carried out twice a week checking hotspots and the area of any specific reports.    Recent outreach numbers had identified that on the 21st March 25 had been checked for with 7 found, on the 7th March 24 were checked for with 7 found and on the 22nd February 20 had been checked for with 8 being found.

A lot of people who have said they are rough sleeping are never found.  They are asked to provide an exact location and officers will check those locations.  Sometimes the location provided is vague such as the river Witham or Witham Country Park.  If not found, the rough sleeper will be contacted by phone where possible and encouraged to come into Centrepoint or the Council offices.

Support was offered by a number of agencies and services:

Centrepoint- anyone approaching Centrepoint directly who stated they were rough sleeping were referred into the Council service and would then be seen by our team.

We are with You – there will soon be new substance misuse posts to work directly with the Rough Sleeper service and local hostels

Neighbourhoods MDT – rough sleepers can be referred into the weekly health related meetings

Housing and Homelessness – joint work happens on a daily basis to prevent homelessness and to find housing solutions for those that become homeless

Immigration and Police – provide advice and support to the team as required

Lincolnshire County Council – commission hostel accommodation and floating support.  Fund addiction services and manage the Team around the Adult service.

Accommodation was from a number of providers within the borough and the team had access to a range of accommodation albeit more accommodation was urgently needed.

  • Accommodation leased from LHP – 3 properties in Boston
  • Framework Hostel – referrals via LCC
  • Framework RSAP accommodation – 9 properties in Boston
  • P3 – 6 bed property
  • Restore Church – nominate rough sleepers for their vacancies
  • Restore Church – funding 1 bed space for people who have NRPF
  • B&Bs
  • Will be leasing or renting more accommodation during 23/24

The team continually faced a number of ongoing challenges in their endeavours to provide support including:

  • Non engagement
  • Unwillingness to follow rules
  • No local connection and refusal to reconnect
  • No recourse to public funds
  • Lack of affordable accommodation
  • Lack of supported accommodation
  • Refused by all accommodation providers
  • Lack of rehab accommodation
  • Complex Needs
  • Too high risk

 

Equally it was challenging to help a rough sleeper who has “No recourse to Public funds”.  Many rough sleepers in Boston were not eligible for housing or benefits which made it very difficult to help them off the streets.  The team did offer advice and support about their options, advice about gaining employment, help in a voluntary return and deportation.

Rough sleeping would not end until the Government did something to resolve this issue.  The team does discuss this issue with the Government specialist advisor for the area and would also be exploring opportunities to provide additional grant funding to non-publicly funded organisations to enable them to provide short term accommodation.

It was not uncommon for rough sleepers to move to different areas of the country or into an adjoining council area.  There could be a range of reasons for this including fleeing drug debts, exhausted all housing options or wanting to make a new start in a different area.  Most people who slept rough in Boston borough had been living in the area for quite some time whereas in East Lindsey a lot had no connection and had moved to the coast for a fresh start.  Without any local connection, housing options were very limited.

Referencing the Severe Weather emergency Protocol, members were advised that all rough sleepers should be offered accommodation when the protocol is activated which was zero or below for three consecutive nights.

Providing accommodation could often be challenging if the rough sleeper was known to cause damage or pose a risk to people. 

Equally in extreme heat, shelter, water and sun tan lotion would be offered.Homelessness was likely to increase because accommodation was becoming less affordable especially with the cost of living crisis.

Members were advised that social housing was often the only affordable option but demand was high and increasing. There were over 1100 households on the housing register for Boston Borough with 289 being single people under the age of 60 including 114 under 35.   Only 29 x 1 bed houses or first floor flats were advertised in Boston borough during 2022 and the social housing providers were likely to decline some rough sleepers because of their complex needs and poor tenancy history.

 

Committee deliberation followed which included:

 

Significant concerns were tabled at the ongoing anti-social activity of migrants who had no recourse to public funds, and also those who did receive funding via the tax payer, leading to stealing, shop lifting and begging which was very intimidating with incidents of people being fronted as they parked their cars.  There was concern on the impact of the economy of the town. It was evident that the crowds of migrants had increased who hung about the market place throughout the day, as often they shared accommodation with others and slept in beds on a rotational basis in line with the shift patterns. There were also clear and open acts of personal and unpleasant anti-social behaviour which went un-punished and significantly deterred residents from visiting the town. 

Whilst those who had no recourse to funds used the food banks, and clothing banks and felt it their right to be given everything, put nothing whatsoever back into the community and simply took and expected everything on a plate.  A member suggested that they be encouraged to help the town and to gain some self-respect and give something back to a place which gave everything.

The figures were questioned with members agreeing that it was now a very serious problem in Boston and homelessness was clearly visible throughout the town.  Issues of alcohol and drug dependency were rife in the town where alcohol was available to buy 24/7 and the impacts of such abuse on the NHS and other services was onerous. 

The Safeguarding Service Manager advised at this point that any person causing an issue in the community should be report to the police to allow an ASB record to be invoked on them which would help in any future deportation consideration. He further stressed that not all homeless people/migrants with no recourse to funding would accept help and officer could not force it.  There were those who chose to sleep on the streets and refused any attempt to help them. 

Begging was increasing across the town with those begging having the belief that the local residents were a soft touch and a member advised that many of those not in receipt of funding, did find shelter by squatting in empty buildings and as such they were not classed as being homeless.

Stressing the need for both the Borough and County Councils to lobby Government for funding for the true population of the Borough, a member responded by reassuring committee that it had been going on from 2011 with various changes in Ministers and the Portfolio Holder agreed the sentiment of ongoing changes in officers and Ministers.

Concern was noted at the Licensing Regulations currently in place which allowed 24/7 access to alcohol in a town with such high numbers of drunkenness and misuse of alcohol.

It was also noted that historically deportation had taken place within the Borough and the officers in charge at that time would be contacted by the Safeguarding Service Manager after the meeting.

A member advised that Centrepoint Outreach within its activity programme were actively encouraging people who used the centre to volunteer around the town which had proved successful and enabled them to keep busy and feel valued at their acts of volunteering.

The Safeguarding Service Manager agreed the importance of keeping people active in order get them away from the market place and advised that part of the funding the team had would pay for them to join and visit leisure facilities around the Borough and concluded by saying it was important to remember all the positives of so many people / migrants being helped and but to focus on the few causing problems.

 

Committee noted the report.